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NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole could make his New York Yankees debut in a tasty opening day treat for fans, facing Juan Soto and World Series champion Washington at Nationals Park.

The Yankees and Nationals are set to meet when the coronavirus pandemic-delayed season begins next month, a person familiar with the planned matchup told The Associated Press on Saturday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there hasn't been an official announcement.

The New York Post first reported the pairing for opening day.

Barring any further setbacks, MLB will start a 60-game season on Thursday, July 23, or the following day. The schedule is still being worked out — there could be only a game or two on the first day of play, or there could be a full slate.

Cole started the previous game played at Nationals Park. He pitched the Houston Astros past the Nationals 7-1 last October for a 3-2 edge in a World Series in which the visiting team won every game.

Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and the Nationals won the last two games to earn their first championship. Max Scherzer started Game 7, fellow ace Stephen Strasburg was the World Series MVP and either of them could start on opening day.

Cole signed a $324 million, nine-year contract with the Yankees as a free agent in the offseason. Rendon departed Washington for a $245 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Yankees and Nationals have met twice this year in exhibitions, including New York's 6-3 win on March 12, the final day before MLB stopped spring training because of the pandemic.

Players will report to their teams this week to begin training for the season, but longtime Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman wrote this past week in a diary entry for the AP that he's weighing his options with the virus looming.

"I'm still deciding whether to play," he said. "When it comes down to it, it's a decision not just for me, but for my family as well."

"I have a 3-week-old baby. My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over," he said.

The schedule calls for clubs to play 10 games each against their four division opponents. There will be 20 interleague games, with MLB intending for East, West and Central clubs to stay in their regions.

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